Australian Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson Charged (Or: Touchdown!)

A smiling Archbishop Philip Wilson

Image: Archbishop Philip Wilson being chauffeur-driven away from the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide yesterday (Source: Herald Sun, 17 March, 2015). [Author’s note: Is that a Rolex, Phil? Might wanna pawn it, babe; Ian Temby QC don’t come cheap, and I hear Pope Francis is on some sort of economy drive or something, new Vatican ‘financial czar’ Cardinal George Pell’s embarrassing shopaholism notwithstanding.]

For a tiny country at the ass-end of the world, Australia occasionally punches well above its weight.

It did so yesterday, making world headlines in the process.

In a day that may just end up, in years to come, overshadowing the anniversaries of other Australian world firsts such as the much-celebrated invention of cask wine, Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson (pictured above) was yesterday formally charged with a “charge of concealing a serious indictable offence” (The Australian, 17 March, 2015).

As stated in The Australian newspaper (17 March, 2015), Wilson is “the most senior Catholic official worldwide to face court over a criminal allegation of this type.”

Briefly, the charges relate to Wilson’s response to (deceased) priest Jim Fletcher, who sexually abused several children, and Wilson’s alleged failure to report Fletcher to the police. [See ‘Read more here’ below for more information].

Naturally, and as predictably emphasised by the Catholic Church hierarchy and its supporters, the presumption of innocence applies to Archbishop Wilson, who denies the allegations made against him. He may be found to be as innocent as the children Fletcher abused. Time will tell, but hopefully not too much time. Forty years or so have already elapsed.

Wilson is due to first appear in court on 30 April this year. While Wilson’s colleague, Archbishop Denis (‘Go to Hell, Bitch’) Hart, the Archbishop of Melbourne and the President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, has said, “I hope that this matter will be resolved without undue delay,” one hopes for the sake of Fletcher’s victims, and not for the Catholic Church, which has the funds of the Vatican Bank to help bankroll a long trial if Wilson can’t get a good deal on his possessions at Cash Converters, that the court proceedings won’t descend into a horrible, drawn-out ordeal for victims and their families.

One also hopes that, perhaps at some point during the coming trial, if not now, someone a bit higher up in the Catholic Church hierarchy might have the decency to force Archbishop Wilson to stand down from his position until the matter is resolved, rather than allow him to maintain his current ‘leave of absence’.

Anyway, non-sports-fans in Oz rarely have occasion to feel remotely jingoistic about this country, but yesterday was an exception. The laying of charges, whatever happens from now, against Wilson marks a significant turning point in the ‘war’ against child abuse in Australia and elsewhere. It shows that Australia has finally moved beyond rounding up the smaller fry, and is prepared to move against people much higher up in the ranks of institutions with unpardonable practices in failing to protect children over decades. One hopes this is only the beginning.

Yesterday was also significant because the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse also handed down quite damning findings about the Salvation Army in relation to four boys’ ‘homes’ run by the Salvation Army in New South Wales and Queensland, hopefully delivering at least a little comfort to the organisation’s victims. As good as it is to see Salvation Army victims of these ‘homes’ get official recognition of their awful suffering, that can’t be the end of this particular chapter in Australian history either. In particular, there’s another ‘big man’ I’d dearly like to see charged soon too – Australian Salvation Army Eastern Territorial head, ‘Commissioner’ James (‘Jimmy’) Condon – in relation to alleged child abuser Colin Haggar and Condon’s response to Haggar’s appalling revelations (see here for more on this). More on this and the Royal Commission’s findings about the Salvation Army another day, when time permits a thorough examination and discussion of the findings.

For now, though, to the various people who made yesterday’s momentous day happen: Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi! May you finally see justice – and soon.

Archbishop Wilson and Easter Eggs

Image: Archbishop Philip Wilson, chatting last year to a journo about tram travel, Easter eggs, and (cask?) wine (Source: Adelaide Now, 16 April, 2014). [Author’s note: Wilson said last year, “People are very generous to me, people do give me Easter eggs. I do get a lot of bottles of wine, too. They understand that wine is a better recipe for a diabetic than Easter eggs!” I’m sure Australian prisons cater to diabetics, but I’m not sure if Easter eggs or wine (even on Saint Patrick’s Day) are dispensed to inmates as a matter of course. If Wilson is “disappointed” now, sadly, he may be in for some more disappointments if he gets the maximum 2-year custodial sentence following a successful conviction.]

Aletha Blayse

[Postscript: There is absolutely no truth to the rumour that a flushed Prime Minister Tony Abbott was overheard to exclaim in the early hours of this morning, following consumption of a large quantity of green cask wine, that, “Any boss who sacks  any Catholic-clergy abuse victim for not turning up today is a bum.”]

Read more here:

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2 Responses to Australian Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson Charged (Or: Touchdown!)

  1. gtslevin says:

    The message is clear: to the leaders of the Catholic Church, as well as of the Salvation Army and every other group that shamelessly uses “God” to cover up child abuse.

    No one is above the law.

    Let the long overdue prosecutions begin !!!

    The accused clerics will get much more fairness and sensitive treatment than the survivors of child rape got.

    Yes, let justice be done, sooner rather than later!

  2. Lets hope this case is proved and he goes to prison where he should be.

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